The High Speed 2 rail project is under fire on many fronts. The Nimby protests in the affluent Home Counties have been augmented last week by more weighty criticism by the National Audit Office (NAO) of the scheme. At least, this is how the NAO’s work has come across in the media.
But the NAO review of the HS2 project is in many ways much more a criticism of the Department of Transport than it is of the high speed rail link itself. According to the NAO, ‘the Department’s methodology for appraising the project puts a high emphasis on journey-time savings, from faster and more reliable journeys’. Surely this is a sensible thing to do? Faster mean less journey time. It seems obvious.
Much of the recent talk about tax has been linked to the avoidance stories by big multi-national companies like Google. An alternative angle that students may find interesting as a counter argument is the use of tax concessions as an incentive by government. The most commonly used example is the concessions given to more environmentally-friendly cars when their owners pay road tax.
Another interesting example has been highlighted this week, in concessions given out to those people who give away items classified as culturally significant. Follow this link to read an article on how some handwritten lyrics penned by John Lennon have been given away by their owner as part of the Cultural Gifts tax relief scheme.
Will all the tax avoiders in the front row please jangle their jewellery?
I have to come clean as a self-confessed container nerd (geek alert: follow the world’s containers using this amazing tool). Not only are the ships hugely impressive from an engineering perspective, but they are a gift for an Economics or Business enthusiast. You might want to be thinking about economies of scale, or the negative externalities associated with transport – or perhaps discuss supply side issues and infrastructure. Container ships cover the lot.
A while ago I argued that container shipping is the greatest of all 20th century innovations, and this week The Economist has reported that the container has been a greater driver of globalisation than all trade agreements in the past 50 years taken together.read more...»
Here is a video report from the fast-growing country of Indonesia where infrastructure deficiencies threaten their sustainable growth rate.read more...»
The headline on the BBC website this afternoon is "Pound falls after surprise dip in inflation". It is important that students taking the A2 economics papers next month are able to give current figures for the macroeconomic indicators, so they should take note of today's CPI inflation figure for April, which is down to 2.4% from 2.8%.
They should also note the reasons - weaker commodity prices and oil in particular, with petrol and diesel prices contributing half of the drop in inflation. Slow earnings growth is also expected to contribute to the outlook for inflation remaining closer to the 2% target than it has been since the end of 2009 - which also suggests that the remaining inflation is not due to demand-pull pressures, but to cost-push.
But can they explain why and how the announcement of a lower rate of inflation has led to a weaker pound? It is not enough, in an essay, simply to state that this cause-and-effect has taken place; in order to gain good marks for analysis, it is essential to trace the process by which one leads to the other. This article from Reuters should give the clues that they need to fill the gaps on the table below ...
What are the costs of a higher average rate of inflation? With CPI inflation staying persistently above target over much of the last six years, to what extent has this undermined UK macro performance? Or has a little extra inflation and an ultra-loose monetary policy (0.5% base rates and £375bn of quantitative easing) been a price worth paying to avoid an ever deeper recession and depression?
"The high retail price inflation seen in recent years has outpaced earnings and eaten into household spending power. Ongoing relatively high inflation will continue to impact consumer spending, especially with unemployment unlikely to fall quickly. The effect on consumer spending will vary between different demographic groups and product sectors, causing companies to revisit their offerings."
Here is the link to the Ernst and Young report - click here
employer's point of view, a zero hours contract is a great example of the
benefits of the flexible labour market. They allow the employer to change the
number of hours an employee works each week, with more shifts offered when they
are busy, and fewer when they are not; costs can therefore be controlled and
matched more exactly to revenue. Neil Carberry at the CBI says that they have
helped to save jobs during the recession and stagnant growth: "It's zero
hours contracts and other forms of flexible working that mean there are half a
million fewer unemployed people than there might otherwise have been." Now
figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)
show the number of 16 to 24-year-olds on zero hours contracts has more than
doubled since the start of the economic downturn, rising from 35,000 in 2008 to
76,000 in 2012. This means that one in every three people on a zero-hours
contract is under 25 (- although that proportion doesn't look as if it has
changed very dramatically throughout the period shown). If this is good for the employer, how is it for the
According to the Scottish National Party, after the referendum on independence next year, Scotland will be a land of milk and honey. The highest per capita levels of public expenditure in the UK can easily be sustained. The whole of the revenue from North Sea oil and gas will belong to Scotland, regardless of the wishes of England and the Shetland Isles. Scotland can remain within the EU, despite clear statements from Brussels that it would have to reapply for membership, and the near certain Spanish veto this would attract.
The UK's membership of the EU is among the hottest of topics at the moment. With the UKIP party doing so well in recent elections and various senior political figures starting to show their real views on UK membership of the EU club even Barrack Obama was giving his opinions yesterday. This doesn't mean that the topic is any more likely to turn up on macro-economic exam papers over the next few weeks at AS and A2 (the OCR AS paper has already been and gone! Hope it went well) - the papers will have been written before the more recent votes.
However, the economic question about the UK's membership has been an important topic for quite a while and so it is worth having a look again just in case it rears its multi-lingual head. Added to that, students of economics will be in an ideal situation over the next few years to be able to make an informed decision in any referendum, based upon having some of the facts and figures and having developed their outstanding evaluative skills on the matter!
With this in mind, follow this link to find a short (10 minute) teaching resource that asks that very simple question - What are the economic arguments for and against remaining in the European Union? The Powerpoint file has a 4 minute timer to give students the chance to think about the answer and then a nice little graphic illustrating some possible answers that they could use in an exam. The BBC have also produced a succinct balanced webpage on a similar question.
Following the theme in Jonny Clarke's blog Does it matter if we are in a recession, there was some positive news of hopeful signs in some sectors of the economy in this week's Deloitte Monday Briefing. Ian Stewart, Chief Economist at Deloitte, reported on the unbalanced picture across the economy. On one hand there is 'extreme' weakness in the high-productivity sectors of North Sea oil and financial services, where output has fallen by an average of 5.4% a year. These two key sectors represent about 14% of the economy and so their weakness has a significant effect on GDP - if they are stripped out of GDP figures, the rest of the economy would have grown by approximately 2% a year in the meantime, a figure which is close to the long-run trend.
Here is a link to a downloadable revision handout on key UK economic data designed for AS and A2 macro papers this summer. I hope it might be useful for some students and teachers.read more...»
The BBC's Chief Business Correspondent Linda Yueh @lindayueh has new page on developments in global economy http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/correspondents/lindayueh/ - definitely one for students and teachers to follow. The opening article focuses on a concept that we have been pushing in our own macro coverage in recent times, namely the emergence of a multi-polar world economy with growth coming from a bigger number of countries / regions and less dependent on the advanced western economies. Read the article here
Those of you who avidly follow Geoff Riley's blogs on this website may have read that he advises students to avoid getting too worked up about whether the economy is actually in recession.
Most economic students will readily tell you the official definition of a recession and can analyse the impact of an under-performing economy. However, it was interesting to read today that, having officially avoided a triple-dip recession last month we may have to revise whether we actually sank in to a double-dip recession in the first place. Follow this link to read the Telegraph's report on how the ONS are revising recent statistics on the economy's performance, suggesting that the shrink in the construction industry shrank by 5.0% (not 5.4% as originally reported) in the first three months of 2012 and, as a consequence, the UK did not slip into another recession.
As Geoff would tell you, whether the country was in a recession or not is the not the most important factor - the economy's sluggish growth should be the paramount concern and the word 'recession' has become more of a political tool. In the upcoming exams, students should remember that the avoidance of a double-dip or triple-dip is fairly irrelevant - the overall performance is the key indicator and there is still plenty to be worried about.
This week, I’ve been revising exchange rate policies with my Year 13 Economics class. This is a hot topic in Thailand as the Baht recently hit a 17 year high against the dollar.
Here's a very simple, but totally unsubtle reminder for your students on the upcoming dates and times of the AS and A level exams in Economics for the AQA, Edexcel and OCR awarding bodies.
Follow this link to download the 'Exam Countdown' file. There you will find a small and easy to use Powerpoint file called 'Exam Countdown'.
Follow this link for a quick tutorial on how to use the resource.
Open and run the slideshow (ensuring that you have 'enabled macros'). The screen will change to a setup slide after a couple of seconds. Click on the exam that you wish to remind your student about and the countdown timer will start. The timer shows how many days, hours, minutes and seconds remain before their exam starts. There's nothing like instilling a sense of urgency!
Please note this file is fully functional. If you would like an editable version (where you can edit the times, dates and 'event') you will find one as part of the 'Super Teacher Utility Belt' resource available from our PowerPoint games-based learning site.
This two-minute video from The Economist analyses the growing problem of youth unemployment in selected developed economies since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, including Greece, Spain, the UK, France, US and Germany. The chilling statistic from The Economist is that almost a quarter of the world's young people eligible for employment are without a job.read more...»
This presentation looks at three evaluation questions in A2 macro and suggests an approach to scoring high marks for evaluation.
Here is a streamed (and downloadable) presentation on policies to cut unemployment in the UK economy.read more...»
The credit crunch is widely regarded to have started during 2007 and is certainly not over yet! Indeed the period of severe constraints on credit availability and rising borrowing costs most notably for smaller businesses has now lasted longer than the Second World War. It represents a major barrier to sustained and hopefully more robust economic recovery. This short streamed presentation looks at the importance of the credit squeeze on the UK economy.
A number of new government policy initiatives have been introduced but doubts persist about their effectiveness. Underneath the surface new forms of business finance are taking shape including peer to peer lending and the rise of retail bonds issued by a number of businesses.read more...»
This blog entry links to some of the significant UK infrastructure projects that are current or planned - all of which cover many aspects of economics including cost benefit analysis, public and private funding, the macro effects of major capital projects and regional / industry implications.read more...»
Brought together in one blog resource - click below for details
The distinguished American academic economists, Carmen Reinhardt and Ken Rogoff, have been very much in the news. Their 2009 book, This Time is Different, was a comprehensive examination of financial crises over the past 800 years. The work received many plaudits and awards. They suggested that when the ratio of public debt to GDP in a country rose above the 90-100 per cent range, the chances of a financial crisis increased sharply. And the consequence was that economic growth in the country would be adversely affected.
This pdf presentation might be useful support for students preparing for macro papers this summer.
I'm always sightly dubious about statistics and information represented by campaign organisations - I'm left with the reservation that information can presented in any way that you want to prove whatever point that you are trying to make (wasn't it an economist who came up with the phrase 'lies, damned lies and statistics'?). So this fascinating report from an organisation called 'Vision of Humanity' needs to be looked at with an open mind.
However, if you take it at face value, it offers some really interesting information.read more...»
[updated 22 April 2013]
Our Economics team have been busy over the last few weeks authoring a comprehensive new collection of multiple-choice revision questions designed to support AS, A2 and IB Economics students.
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be uploading these quizzes to the tutor2u website and also creating Zondle versions to enable them to played using the tutor2u mobile and tablet App.
Please bookmark and share the link to this blog entry and visit regularly to check on our progress as we add new revision quizzes.read more...»
Link here to a revision note on aspects of growth and development in India (revised April 2013)read more...»
He's back but he's still angry! In this latest version of The Angry Economist, our favourite curmudgeonly analyst wants to know students' opinion on George Osborne's economic policies - no wonder his blood pressure has risen!
This simple Powerpoint resource is aimed at getting your students to analyse and evaluate economic policies - 8 of the Chancellor's policies are presented and the Angry Economist randomly picks a macro-economic objective to consider. All you have to do is get 8 volunteers from your class to do the analysing - a great 10 minute activity whilst revising for the up-coming macro exams at either GCSE, AS or A2 level.
Here is a list of the policies the Angry Economist wants students to look at (you may wish to recap on them before you start the activity):
- Reduce Government debt
- Increased number of private sector jobs
- Increased allowance before Income Tax needs to be paid
- Cut Corporation Tax
- Set up Regional Growth Fund
- Funding Lending Scheme
- Deregulating some planning rules
- Frozen Council Tax
Of course, the beauty of this resource is that you can change any of these policies to whatever you want them to be.
Click on this link to download the Angry Economist 2.
PS. Click on this link to have a look at the original Angry Economist.
Where have all the miners gone? To judge by the rhetoric of the BBC and other Leftist media outlets, whole swathes of Britain lie devastated, plagued by rickets, unemployment and endemic poverty – nearly thirty years after the pit closures under Lady Thatcher!
The reality is different. There is indeed a small number of local authority areas where employment has never really recovered from the closures in the 1980s. But, equally, there are former mining areas which have prospered.
Here are some notes taken from a talk given by Linda Yueh on the Chinese economy at the RSA in London on the 18th April, 2013read more...»
A growing number of teachers are curating Scoop It Boards focusing on specific exam courses or aspects of the subject - ranging from ones on market failure and government intervention through to international economics, China, and relevant articles and resources for papers such as OCR F585 and Pre U. Maybe students can be encouraged to curate and develop their own boards as a way of keeping a study log of interesting blogs, news features, analysis and evaluative pieces?read more...»